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Virgin Atlantic Partners With Vertical Aerospace to Pioneer Zero Emissions Air Travel in the UK

Virgin Atlantic has partnered with Vertical Aerospace with an option to purchase up to 150 VA-X4s, an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The carrier is also exploring a UK joint venture to deliver a zero-emissions Virgin Atlantic branded short-haul network.

Rendering of Vertical Aerospace VA-X4 eVTOL Aircraft in Virgin Atlantic Livery Over London - Courtesy Virgin Atlantic -

On Thursday (June 10, 2021), Virgin Atlantic announced the launch of a partnership with Vertical Aerospace to pioneer zero-emissions air travel in the UK. Under the partnership, the airline has the option to purchase up to 150 of Vertical Aerospace’s VA-X4 electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Additionally, the partners will explore the formation of a UK joint venture to deliver a Virgin Atlantic branded short-haul eVTOL network. The fully-electric VA-X4 is a quiet, zero emissions aircraft with a range of over 100 miles and capacity to carry four passengers and a pilot. The aircraft has four tilting front rotors, as well as stowable rotors at the rear, and will be capable traveling at speeds of up to 200 mph.

In Thursday’s announcement, Virgin Atlantic’s CEO, Shai Weiss, said,

“With innovation and sustainability leadership firmly in our DNA, we are excited to be partnering with Vertical Aerospace to pioneer sustainable and zero emissions air travel in the UK. We pride ourselves on building enduring strategic partnerships and are thrilled to be working alongside Vertical in its mission to bring eVTOL travel to the UK. Our partnership includes an option for Virgin Atlantic to acquire up to 150 eVTOL VA-X4 aircraft and exploration of a Joint Venture to bring short haul, electric vehicle connectivity to cities and our UK airport hubs, starting with London Heathrow as well as Manchester and London Gatwick. Combining the design, engineering and manufacturing expertise of Vertical with the award-winning customer experience and operational excellence of Virgin Atlantic.”

Also commenting on the new partnership, Vertical Aerospace’s Founder and CEO, Stephen Fitzpatrick, said,

“This is the most exciting time in aviation for almost a century; electrification will transform flying in the 21st century in the same way the jet engine did 70 years ago. By bringing together two entrepreneurial organisations who share the same passion for innovation and best in class partnerships, we can revolutionise urban mobility in the UK and electrify air travel. We look forward to working closely with Virgin Atlantic and completely changing how people think about flying through the skies.”

Virgin Atlantic and Vertical Aerospace will seek to establish short-haul electric aircraft connectivity between UK cities and airport hubs, starting with London Heathrow, Manchester and London Gatwick. The partnership goal is to achieve sustainable and cost effective regional connectivity for the first and last 100 miles of the customer journey. As an example, the XB-X4 could reduce a 1.5 hour drive between Cambridge and London to only 22 minutes. With 37 cities and towns with populations over 100,000 within 100 miles of London Heathrow, the aircraft holds the potential to support short-haul transfers for 7.7 million travelers outside of London.

The launch of commercial passenger revenue service for the VA-X4 is planned for 2024, after the aircraft is certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). As the UK launch partner for the VA-X4, Virgin Atlantic has the option to purchase from 50-150 aircraft. With aircraft development still underway, this is not yet a committed order and the final value remains undetermined.

Founded by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson in 1984, Virgin Atlantic has brought innovation and the highest level of customer care to the airline industry. The carrier was voted Britain’s only Global Five Star Airline by APEX in 2020 for the fourth consecutive year. Headquartered in London, Virgin Atlantic employs 5,900 team members worldwide. The airline currently serves 27 destinations across four continents. Alongside shareholder and Joint Venture partner Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic operates a leading network between the US and UK, with onward connections to over 200 cities around the world. By 2022, Virgin Atlantic will operate an efficient and simplified fleet of 37 twin-engine aircraft, delivering a 10 percent savings compared to the aircraft they replace.

Source: Virgin Atlantic


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